Questions & Answers About the Flu

Q: How do I know if my child is at risk and should be given the flu shot?

A: Any child with the following underlying chronic conditions should get a flu shot:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung conditions, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis
  • Immune deficiencies or those taking medicines that affect the immune system
  • Kidney disease
  • Metabolic disease such as diabetes
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Any child on long-term aspirin medication
  • Healthy children 6 to 23 months of age
  • Household contacts of children with any of the above conditions

Q: This is my child’s first flu vaccination and she needs two shots. How can she get them?

A: Normally, if this is the first time a child under nine is immunized, she gets a shot and then a month later gets a booster shot. The child can still get the booster shot, if it is available. However, this year the CDC recommends that doctors conserve the available vaccine for high-risk groups and booster shots may not be available. You should still get the initial shot. One shot without the booster is better than no shot.

Q: Should I keep my child at home more often if she hasn’t been immunized?

A: Transmission of the virus takes place before symptoms actually occur, so children should be instructed to follow normal precautions like basic hand washing and not touching their faces. But restricting the child’s activities will probably not help.

Q: Will there be enough vaccine if my child is a patient at Children’s?

A: We ordered our supply of vaccine through Aventis, and we have the vaccine that we ordered. We anticipate that we will have enough vaccine for patients.

Q: Can I get my child vaccinated at Children’s?

A: Children’s does not have a flu clinic with vaccine for children who are not patients.

Q: How do I know if my child has the flu?

A: There are several signs and symptoms:

  • A fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, sometimes with shaking chills (if the child’s fever is under 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or she has congestion/runny nose alone, it could be the common cold)
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache/sore throat in older children
  • Cough
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea, are signs in children, not adults
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

Q: Should I take my child to Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department?

A: You should first consult your child’s pediatrician, who can prescribe care. However, you should take your child to the Emergency Room if:

  • He has a high fever you cannot control
  • She is dehydrated from vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • He cannot take fluids
  • If her breathing is rapid or she is having a difficult time breathing
  • He seems confused or he is not responding to you in a normal way

Q: How should I care for my child who has the flu?

A: Always consult your child’s pediatrician, who likely will recommend plenty of rest, fluids and comfort medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Note: NOT aspirin) to reduce a fever. In most cases, the flu will run its course in three or four days.

Q: I understand there are ways to keep my child from becoming very ill if we “catch” the flu early.

A: In addition to rest, fluids and fever medicine, there are treatments available if your child is diagnosed with flu within the first two days of illness. The names of the medicines are amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir and oseltamivir. Each of these medications has indications and ages for use; your pediatrician can tell you which one, if any, is best for your child. You may want your pediatrician to perform a rapid flu test to determine whether your child’s illness is caused by the flu.

Q: What can we do to prevent the flu in our family?

A: The flu virus is spread mainly through hands and secretions from the nose. So, encourage your children to wash their hands with soap and water frequently. The antibacterial instant hand gels on the market are also effective. Always wash your hands after being in public or contact with anyone with a cold or flu. Clean – frequently – commonly touched surfaces (door knobs, refrigerator handles, phones, water faucets, etc.) if someone in the house has a cold or flu. Teach your children to turn their heads and cough or sneeze into a tissue or inside their elbow if a tissue is not available. Don’t expose young children unnecessarily to large crowds when flu is in the community. Avoid close contact (holding, kissing) between infants and anyone who has a cold or flu. Do not share anything that goes into the mouth, such as drinking cups and straws.

Remember, you can always consult your child’s pediatrician, or if you are pregnant, your physician, with questions.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics